USA sanctions Russia-based bank over Venezuela business

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas

The move by Washington on March 11 turns up the pressure on both Caracas and Moscow, which is one of the biggest financial backers for Venezuela's embattled leader, Nicolas Maduro.

In announcing the sanctions against the bank, Evrofinance Mosnarbank, the U.S. Treasury Department said its net assets had grown by over 50 percent during 2018, even as U.S. sanctions had increased.

"While the illegitimate Maduro regime looks for illicit channels like Evrofinance Mosnarbank to facilitate financial support to state-owned oil company PDVSA, which it then pockets for personal gain, the Venezuelan people are starving and sitting in the dark as their electrical system fails", the State Department said. The U.S.in January sanctioned the oil company. "And Rosneft's CEO, Igor Sechin, continues to throw a lifeline to the regime". The US Treasury introduced sanctions against the Russian-Venezuelan bank Evrofinance-Mosnarbank in connection with the situation in Venezuela, according to its statement released on Monday.

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The bank was set up in 2011 as a joint venture to build on the alliance between Putin and former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. "Maduro's enablers, including those in Russian Federation, are facilitating the continued theft of Venezuela's assets, allowing members of the illegitimate Maduro regime to line their pockets at the expense of the Venezuelan people". The United States is watching.

The other stake belongs to Russia's Gazprombank, in which the majority Russian state-owned gas producer Gazprom is a shareholder, and to state-owned VTB Bank, which is Russia's second largest bank. While more than 50 countries, including the USA, have recognized National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, Russia has sided with Maduro's regime.

OFAC imposed sanctions on Gazprombank back in 2014. They say president Nicolas Maduro wasn't legitimately re-elected previous year because opposition candidates weren't permitted to run.

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